He looked to be straight out of central casting, circa 1950s. Though there were seats available, he chose to ride standing, holding onto the dangling strap above for balance. The stylish fedora tilted ever so slightly forward across his forehead. His black London Fog trench coat was buttoned neatly down the front, with the belt fastened securely around his waist. The attaché he carried tightly at his right side left the most lasting impression. Not the usual overstuffed computer bag of today with the padded shoulder strap and earbuds sprouting out of the top, this instead appeared to be made of wood, stylish and thin with the numbered tumblers locked in place on each side of the leather handle. Such a briefcase was surely harboring a very important stack of reports or plans or perhaps even a secret message for the contact he would be meeting in the park.
Image provided courtesy of Pixabay, https://pixabay.com/en/briefcase-vintage-oldschool-923847/ CC0 Public Domain, no known restrictions.
This is how I entertain myself each morning during my commute into the city. The sights and smells of the metro seem to launch my brain into story-mode. I become mesmerized by those around me, imagining their backstories. Perhaps it’s the way most writers are wired, to view all the world and its occupants as source and inspiration for future scribblings. I’m sure I’ll somehow use “man with fedora” as a muse some day and I’ve tucked away his image for safe keeping.
One of my favorite writers, Miami Herald columnist and author Carl Hiaasen, mines the headlines of my native state of Florida for writing gold. His most recent book, Razor Girl, was inspired by the story of a woman who was “grooming herself” while driving (yes, you read that right) and crashed into a car full of tourists. Truth to all that is holy, read about it yourself: http://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2016/09/15/carl-hiaasen-razor-girl. For the record, she wasn’t brushing her hair.Where are YOUR favorite places to people watch? Click To Tweet
I find myself most mornings perched on my orange vinyl bench seat, people watching all the way along the 40 minute metro ride. As the metro car lurches along, I pick my targets for observation. I’ve had some favorites:
Multi-Tasker Sue. Two weeks ago I watched Sue proceed to do her full hair and make-up while seated in the metro car front row which faces toward the other rows within the car. I’m talking rollers out of her hair, lipstick, eye shadow, the works. She seemed to possess an arsenal of beauty products in her pretty pink quilted commuter bag. Sue’s ability to work a mascara wand and not end up with raccoon eyes was mesmerizing to behold. I envision Sue to be living some sort of double life, one that requires her to make quick changes of her looks. Perhaps there were wigs and fake teeth and extra eyeglasses in that pink bag of hers.
Image provided courtesy of gratisography, http://gratisography.com/ No image restrictions.
Over-Sharing Betty. To be fully accurate, Betty wasn’t on the train, I instead encountered her while riding the escalator up to the platform to await said train. Somehow, in her haste to share all her worldly news and knowledge with what I’m hoping was her best friend and not just some unwilling passerby, Betty seemed to be oblivious to the fact that she was, in fact, quite loudly expressing such gems as: “I’m pretty sure that condoms, birth control, and Vagasil are all available over the counter.” Well darlin’, two out of three ain’t bad. Betty is definitely a librarian. She needs an outlet after all the hushed tones and library whispers throughout her day.
Germaphobe Bob. Poor Bob, after using disinfectant wipes on the seat and handrails, I watched him wedge himself up into one of the farthest corners of the metro car, with what must have been high hopes that no one would sit beside him. Bob raised an open book in front of his face in what looked to be his attempt to ward off any nascent airborne contagions that might drift his way. Public transportation is certainly not designed for those who easily fret over exposure to their fellow humans. I believe Bob to be either a shoe salesman or a romance novel editor; I haven’t quite decided.
There have been many others: the letch, the debutante, the bookworm. I’ve developed backstories for them all. But as I looked around this morning, I had a bit of an epiphany: In the eyes of my fellow riders, what do they wonder to be my backstory?In the eyes of my fellow riders, what do they wonder to be my backstory? Click To Tweet
Are you a people watcher? Where are your favorite places for observing the human condition?